“ Blakey Ridge, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, YO62 7LQ. Tel:01751 417320 „
It was a rainy day in Scarborough, and the time was right to head for the moors and get away from depressed holidaymakers eating chips. We drove to Pickering, only to encounter yet more depressed holiday makers, aimlessly wandering around - so we rushed into Tourist Information for help.
"We need wild moors and a lovely lunch", we told the lady inside. "High or low?" she said. High was definitely what we needed at that time, and she gave us perfect directions to Blakey Ridge, the highest point on the North York Moors (at an elevation of 1,325 feet), where we could find the Lion Inn, a pub renowned for its good food.
Driving across the magnificent, bleak moors, the Lion Inn was immediately identifiable as being the only building for miles! Remote is an understatement!
A low, fairly sprawling building made out of traditional York stone, the pub itself just reeks of history. You walk in through the low door, and immediately feel the solid walls close in around you, making you realise what in incredible haven it must have been to travellers crossing the snowy moors a hundred years ago. The windows are tiny, and reveal the depth of the walls which must be about three feet thick. The ceiling is beamed and very low and there were enormous fireplaces that thankfully were not lit (in August). The inside of the pub itself is fairly dark - and all in all you could be stepping right through time when you walk through the door.
The reputation of the place was immediately apparent - it was bursting at the seams ! Despite the crush at the bar everybody was very good natured. It was one of those pubs that people walk or cycle all day to reach, and we were all embarrassed by our city jeans and trainers - when the pile of muddy boots in the porch told us that most of the diners had really earned their lunch!
Inside the pub there are two fairly large public bar areas, and this is where most people sat. In addition there were three large formal dining rooms at the back. Still very old and atmospheric, but for some reason everybody wanted to sit in the cosy bar area.
We managed to get a table in the bar fairly easily, turning down the offer of the dining room. My husband enjoyed a pint of recommended Old Peculiar, whilst the rest of us had lagers or soft drinks. Our food arrived surprisingly quickly, considering how busy the bar staff were.
My youngest son had a huge Yorkshire pudding and gravy for starters (£3.35), followed by "chef's own" chicken curry (£9.95). I had Chicken Supreme (£10.25); my older son had Roasted Vegetable Lasagne (£9.95); and my husband had Spinach & Mascarpone Lasagne (£9.95). The vegetarian choice was excellent (something I didn't expect from a remote northern pub), but I am always wary of eating vegetarian in a new restaurant. If I had realised how good the food was I would have given it a go. On the specials board there was vegetable crumble, and this added to the vegetarian menu choice of wild Rice Bake, Creamy Vegetable Kiev and Vegetable Nut Roast . All the food was very fresh and exceptionally well cooked. My chicken was very tender and the mushroom and wine sauce was delicious. There was a choice of 5 potato dishes to go with your meal - croquettes, new potatoes, baked potatoes, chips and roast. I chose croquettes and was delighted to find that they were home made and had the texture and taste of really fresh potato.
We wanted to splash out on a really big lunch - there were also the usual bar options available of soup and roll, sandwiches, or jacket potatoes - all for around £3.95.
The one thing that overwhelmed me about the food (apart from the fantastic quality) was the absolutely enormous portions! Talk about Supersize me! My God, Yorkshiremen know how to eat.... Peering down through my mushroom and cream sauce I discovered that I had 2 chicken breasts on my plate. "Look - I've got two enormous breasts", I shouted excitedly - stopping most of the guests in mid conversation, and creating a loud tittering throughout the pub.
**If you ever want to know how to really, really embarrass your teenage sons, just give me a call ...
Anyway - my younger son, having demolished his giant Yorkshire pudding, obviously was only just able to pick at his double-portion curry. Which did allow me to say, "I told you so". I had tried to persuade him to have the children's meal - sensibly available to all under 16s for £4.95, but he was having none of it. Judging by the size of an adult portion, I would say that the children's menu would probably be what us weak southerners would call a normal portion!
After demolishing our food, all we could do was lie back and groan - the very thought of pudding was just too much, even though there was Spotted Dick and custard on the menu, along with bread and butter budding or jam roly poly. All were £3.95, but we couldn't find the strength ...
The pub is very proud of its history, and ancient photos adorn the walls. A potted version of the history is inside each of the menus, claiming that the inn was in its present location from the time that "men first set foot in the district". More official evidence dates the Inn to 1553 or 1558, and since that time it has been the hub of life on the remote moors, giving rest to travellers and acting as a centre of commication and commerce. The pub has a section of history on its webpage at www.lionblakey.co.uk , which is well worth looking at.
Which ever way you approach the pub, it will involve driving over 6 miles of open moorland. This is by no means problem, in fact it is a bonus - you will be open mouthed at the fantastic views along the way. The nearest village is Castleton. It took us about 15 minutes to drive from Pickering.
If you fancy walking, the nearest railway is Castleton Moor, and the pub is on the route of the 40 miles Lyke Wake Walk.
The Lion Inn also offers B&B and a la carte menus in the three restaurants. It can (and does) cater for conferences and special occasions. Judging from local press reviews, many people drive out to the pub for an a la carte evening meal.
The pub has appeared in numerous guides and articles, including the CAMRA Real Ale pub guide, the Telegraph guide to 50 great pubs. It was also nominated for "Real Fire Pub of the Year" and awarded the "Theakston Acclaimed Purveyor" award.
If you put the postcode (YO62 7LQ) into multimap - you will think that multimap is having a bad day! The only thing you can see is a huge green page with a red circle in the middle - this is just how remote the inn is - there is nothing else there for miles ...
I think it must be obvious by now that I really loved this place! I thought the atmosphere was exceptional and the food was very good value for money. My only regret is that we drove there and didn't have walking gear with us, so that we could really enjoy the beauty of the location.